Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Power of the Shout

(by Kerry Patton)
“He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Luke 3:7-9

John the Baptist was shouting to the crowds.  No, I speak not to how LOUD he was speaking, but to the manner in which he was speaking.  His words were pointed.  I mean, “You brood of vipers…” That’s rather sharp wouldn’t you say?  So why was he addressing them so seemingly harshly?  Why was John “shouting” to the crowds?

We know when and why most people shout.  When they are angry, right?  We generally shout when we are excited by anger, frustration, or fear.  So, shouting gets a bit of a black eye doesn’t it.  In that context, nobody likes to be shouted at.  But there are other times we shout aren’t there?  When your friend is on the other end of the football field and you need to let them know to meet you at the car in fifteen minutes. Whispering isn’t going to cut it is it?  Neither is speaking normally.  You’re going to need to shout to help them out.  We also shout warnings don’t we?  “Hey!  Watch OUT!!”  So some shouting is important. 

We also find many references to shouting in the context of celebration in the scriptures.  Luke 17:15 tells of one such instance: Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice…”  Isaiah 26:12 is another as it pronounces: “Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” 

I have memories of the old-timers referring to this person or that being a shoutin’ Methodist, Baptist, or Pentecostal.  There was an element of faith and expression that may have become lost across the years.  I might agree with them.  Our God is Awesome, and somethings are just worth shouting about.  Amen?

Spiritually speaking, why do we sometimes shout?  Well, because the message of the moment may merit it.  Sometimes, spiritual intervention is just necessary.  This may have been the case as John the Baptist was addressing his audience.  It occurs to me that either:
1.    John was just being mean and was chewing them out real good (unlikely, knowing something of John’s character and faith), or
2.    (Most likely) John was shouting at/to them in frustrated love and concern.
If he really didn’t care, he could have just left them alone to perish in their own self-righteousness.  But he didn’t.  John’s scolding was a stern warning.  He was shouting for the welfare of their very souls.  Effectively saying: “Can’t you see how crazy this is??  You know better than this!  Get it together!!” 

Sometimes, faith compels us to shout.  And I want to reiterate what I hope has been implicit: By shouting, I am not necessarily speaking of yelling loudly, but of becoming impassioned about the subject matter of faith, and the reality that there really, really are persons that we know and love who will burn eternally in Hell’s fire…unless someone shouts loudly: “PLEASE, STOP!!!” And then leads them gently back to safety through careful, compassionate teaching, and Christian example.  Who among us would not shout if we saw a stranger, or even an enemy headed for certain peril?  None.  We would shout…every one of us.  Will we not also for the soul stumbling toward eternal destruction?  Shout.

The fine art of communicating our faith sometimes requires a good shout.  We must be careful though, because just as it is in conversation – if you shout out of reasonable context, or only shout to/at people, they won’t listen very long, will they.  They will discount you and simply move along.  The shout of faith is powerful, and important.  But mustn’t be overused or it becomes utterly ineffective.

Almighty God, may we re-learn the art of Shouting to God with a voice of triumph and praise!  And may we also, by your compassion and grace, learn the art of the urgent shout of faith.  Move us in the moment, O God, when the impassioned shout is desperately needed.  And fill us with your Word and your Holy Spirit that we may be discerning of what to say…and how.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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